A is for Atresia

Ordeal questions

 

atresia – noun: 1. absence or closure of a natural passage of the body 2. absence or disappearance of an anatomical part by degeneration.

 

To Fall Asleep

Every night I play this game
A habit now, a secret shame

Multi-tasking cartoon shows
Or re-runs burned out long ago

While refreshing games of solitaire
Win or lose I never care

I tell myself to fall asleep
Knowing I avoid REM deep where

I’m taken to the terrifying nightmare
The moment of ecstasy and desperate despair

When you still loved me
Would delight in my jealousy

Before the tearing
Before the discarding

As I grow weary
My red eyes go bleary

I wish for atresia
Through lack of sleep to amnesia

Every nocturnal, natural passage binding
Me to you degenerating, closing

Letting me sleep in peace.

 

 

I found a spark of inspiration this morning while reading “Love Is Like Sounds” from The Selected Poems of Donald Hall (Poet Laureate of the United States, 2006 – 2007).

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April Is Coming: NaPoWriMo & A to Z Challenge & Me

Close-up of daffodils

Life Lessons: Always Learning

These last couple months, I have learned a few things about myself:

1. Joining the YMCA is a good way to pay money to inspire me to stay home and write.

2. In the Fall and Winter, I write stories that will eventually be called for on Dark Markets.

3. When Winter is over, I suddenly want to finish all my stories and send them out to get homes and readers. Guess that’s how I sow (I have plans to sew) my oats, so to speak.

4. I am good at physical (better than my self-imposed) deadlines, but I might as well stop telling myself I’ll start months ahead when I know the work gets done in the final week. It’s not procrastinating; I’m a thinker and I think better while doing other things.

5. And most pertinent to this post: I either blog once a day or once a month and there is very little in between.

Conclusion: I’m creative and like to be in the now of the creative process. I’m not a planner. Thus, starting my day with a blog challenge that includes creative writing is the most reliable way to get content here for you to read (Instead of, say, spending my time making klecksography–magnetic poetry with inkblot illustration–and posting it to twitter: My Klecksography Twitter Moment).

National Poetry Writing Month

With this in mind, I was happy to remember that April is NaPoWriMo – National (Global) Poetry Writing Month. It came to my attention when I did OctPoWriMo last fall. Since I enjoyed writing daily poems and continued to enjoy writing daily poetry through November and December, I am looking forward to doing it again.

Last Fall was an intense re-introduction to poetry for me. It started with the CalArts Poetry Workshop with Douglas KearneyI took (free) through coursera.org. The readings, examples, videos and assignments opened my eyes and inspired me to look for more poetry challenges. October Poetry Writing Month (OctPoWriMo) created by Morgan Dragonwillow( @MorganDragonwillow) was my first daily challenge and introduced me to a plethora of poetry forms.

After October, I wanted more, so even during the intense writing challenge that is NaNoWriMo, I joined another poetry challenge. Writer’s Digest offered the PAD (poem-a-day) Chapbook Challenge. I used the prompts and wrote poems from my characters’ points of view (mostly my MC) and it enhanced my NaNoWriMo experience.

When that challenge ended, I put together my first poetry Chapbook and entered it in the contest, but I wanted to continue and end the year strong, so I did the MoSt Poetry New Year challenge which offered prompts through the new year and part of January.

 

The Book

Journal: Carnet PAPERBLANKS modèle Nocturnelle Ultra 180x230mm – ligné by paperblanks

For Christmas, my sweetie got me the most beautiful hard-cover journal. I love the textured, embossed, old-world style with metal clasps and two attached ribbon bookmarks. To me, it is more than an everyday-morning-pages-stream-of-consciousness journal, or even a notes-for-my novel journal. So after writing in it for the first two days of 2018, I stopped. I thought I would use it for daily poetry, but I’ve been neglecting the daily poetry.  This beautiful journal will be one of my tools during the fabulous challenge that is April.

A to Z Challenge

When I joined Thursday evening’s #StoryDam chat, I was proud to announce that I had signed up for April’s National Poetry Writing Month, but then the second question of the evening was if anyone had signed up for April’s A to Z Challenge. The A to Z challenge is a challenge for bloggers to blog daily about a topic or topics starting with the letter A on April 1st and following each day (except for the following Sundays) with consecutive letters of the alphabet.

Now, I will admit, I had completely forgotten that April was also the month for this blogging challenge, but I quickly realized that it shouldn’t be too hard to combine the two. Since I am new to each of these challenges, this will be an experiment, but I see it being fun. I’m thinking for the A to Z challenge, I will challenge myself to a new word starting with the letter of the day. Then I will use that word in my NaPoWriMo poem.

I also want to continue my Craft Book Reviews. I’ve had a couple Jack Bickham books lined up for this week, but I guess you’ll get those on Monday. The letter B. I’ve also been enjoying a couple of John Dufresne books, so I’ll have to hurry and get those reviews ready for “D” day which will be next Thursday. Depending on how this goes, those may be all the Craft Book Reviews for April because I got excited and requested books by all four living Nobel Prize winning poets (before Bob Dylan; I already read his book Tarantula) from my local library and downloaded some e-books as well.

And if that wasn’t enough to keep you coming back to Experience Writing in April, I am going to see Anne Lamott, author of Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life speak. I hope I have a ton of writer wisdom to share after that!

Happy Reading and Writing!

See You Tomorrow.

 

Twitter #Hashtags That Motivate Revision

Twitter hashtags for writers and bloggers

Create visuals like this at canva.com. It’s quick and easy.

Twitter did not appeal to me at first (or second or third). So why, you ask, would I write this post? Recently,  I find myself enjoying it more and more. There are lots of fun challenges for writers and the character limitation ends up being a great revision tool.

How Twitter can help your revision

One Word Search

Many of the writing challenges have themes. One of the challenges I did had “green” for its theme. I opened my work in progress (WIP) and typed the word green in the find bar. This brought up every instance of the word green in my manuscript. As I searched through, looking for a sentence I would like to share with fellow writers and readers, I found myself editing every single sentence. I also noticed a trend toward shiny green eyes that I probably wouldn’t have noticed otherwise–time for a game of pessimistic moustache with body part eyes. I posted:

(that’s the first time I’ve embedded a tweet. So many firsts recently here at Experience Writing )

Themes and Word Count

The reason twitter is working so well for me as a revision tool is the limited character count. Another theme I participated in was Send/Receive/Give. In my WIP, my main character wrote a poem that fit this theme perfectly. However, I could only use a small part of it within a tweet. I thought it was a great revision exercise to attempt to keep the message and feel of the poems with so few words. Here is what I tweeted:

Finished revision and ready to pitch?

The third line of hashtags in my picture is for you. Writing a pitch for your book that will fit in a tweet is great practice for creating your logline. When you’re ready to start querying agents, or are working on a new story idea #MSWL is great! Agents list stories they are looking for. This can quickly narrow your agent list to agents looking for your work.

Check out Twitter Pitching Like a Pro over at publishingcrawl.com

These are only a few ways that I find Twitter helpful to my #writingprocess. There are many more hashtags to explore and create. Have fun!

For more hashtag suggestions L.M. Pierce has a great list.

There are also many books out there about using twitter for writers. For more tips and tricks check out:
Your Book, Your Brand: The Step-By-Step Guide to Launching Your Book and Boosting Your Sales

Twitter for Writers: The Author’s Guide to Tweeting Success (Writer’s Craft Book 8)
Twitter for Authors Artists and Entrepreneurs: Social Networking for the Creative Mind

Don’t forget to enter the Gator McBumpypants Contest that ends on Friday and come back Thursday for a guest post from author Michael Onofrey.

Want More Readers?

While preparing my next newsletter, I noticed that my last one had a bunch of great information in it. I don’t want anyone to miss out, so here it is to give you a taste of what goes into my newsletters. If you like it, please sign up to get monthly installments and your free copy of Read to Write: Conflict and Suspense.

social media buttons

So many places to post content. Make it good content!

Give your readers what they want how they want it

No matter what you are publishing to the web, your readers are going to read it differently than they would a book or other type of written media.

Studies have shown (Nielsen 2006) that people tend to scan web content. They look at the title, subtitle and first paragraph and then quickly scan to the end. This has led to two ideas of content design:

Both ideas work together. The F-shape design emphasizes grabbing your reader’s attention with an exciting title, an informative sub-title and summarizing what you are going to talk about in your first paragraph.

The upside-down pyramid is a design where you put the most important thing you want to say (or the conclusion) at the top of your post and make sure everything that needs to be read is on the top two thirds of the page.

Make your content sexy

Sexy content has nothing to do with sex (unless you’re writing erotica). It’s all about reader appeal. What makes someone look at your page of content and think, I want to read this? White space.

White space? Then why write anything, right? No, the blank page isn’t sexy. The sexiness of white space is the breath between ideas, like a rest in music creating suspense.

To create white space in your content you can use:

  • titles
  • subtitles
  • bulleted lists
  • numbered lists
  • infographics
  • images
  • tables
  • videos
  • links

In other words, anything that provides useful information and breaks up the text.

Accessibility

For me, one of the most interesting sections of learning to write for the web was the discussion of accessibility. When scrambling to finish a blog post, or in the excitement of posting a video to youtube, it is easy to forget to make our posts inclusive to as many people as possible.

When posting blog posts and videos in the past, I put very little thought into the image descriptions and alternate text. I didn’t really understand the purpose off these extra steps. But they have a very special purpose.

Imagine that you can’t see. How would you know what the image looks like that the blog post references? The digital voice on your computer would read the description of the image.

Now imagine you can’t hear. The website you are looking at has a great video, but you can’t hear a word the person is saying. Adding text to your video gives this reader access.

Spending just a little extra time with accessibility tools can enhance your content and increase your readability.

SEO: Titles and Key Words

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has become big business. It is how websites, blogs, people, anything, is found through a search engine on the web.  Increasing your SEO may increase your readership. How do you increase your SEO? By using the key words your readers are searching for in your titles, key words and content.

Overwhelming, right? Not anymore. Last month you learned about creating personas. You spent time researching and getting to know your readers. Now, ask each persona, What did you type into your search engine (maybe assign a different search engine to each persona–Fred uses Bing, Jenna uses Yahoo, etc.) to find this content?

This exercise changed my ideas about key words. When I first started blogging, I listed my key words for a blog post one word at a time, but when I search for things I very rarely type one word searches. Pay attention to how you search the web. Try to image yourself searching for a topic and finding your website or blog. How did you get there?

Making sure that your titles, subtitles and phrases in your content all include your key word phrases will increase your SEO.

Take Away

Even if you have taken the time to write and edit the most interesting, well-written content that you know your readers will love because you did the research and took the time to get to know your readers and your competition, you still need to present your content in a way that will appeal to how they read on the web.

A Great Resource For Writers and Readers (Updated)

posters for the films you can read

from Future Learn

Read screenplays from famous and popular films for free!

If you read my posts about studying suspense and conflict, you may have noticed that I found a lot of useful information in books on screenwriting. I learned about story beats, the hero’s journey, and the purpose of story as an emotion generating machine.

Recently, I told a friend about my frustration with a particular short story’s many rejections. It is a story written completely in dialogue, not even a dialogue tag. He said, “Maybe it’s a one-act play,” and I could feel the light bulbs popping in my head. I ran to the internet and found a free online course called An Introduction to Screenwriting through Future Learn and the University of East Anglia, and I signed up.

The first assignment was to read screenplays–makes sense–and we were provided a link to a wonderful website where you can read over 100 free and legal to access screenplays.  The Black List is so easy to use: Just click on the poster of the movie you want to read and it opens the full screenplay as a pdf.

2-9-2017    Sadly, when I went to The Black List site yesterday, it was not at all what it was when I wrote this post. There is an informative blog, so I’m leaving the link up, but you now have to sign up and pay to read scripts. But, Good News! I found another great site for reading scripts called Simply Scripts. It has a great selection of all kinds of scripts: Movies, TV, Unproduced, Radio, and more.

Our assignment was to pick a film we had seen and one we had not. I chose Gone Girl because I had read the book then seen the film and the author of the book, Gillian Flynn, also wrote the screenplay. I found this choice very boring (probably too familiar) and quickly switched to my next choice, The Bling Ring by Sofia Coppola. Though I had no interest in seeing this film, reading the screenplay was fun and informative. I especially enjoyed seeing some scenes replaced with the word Omitted. I felt like I was in on part of the process.

Our next assignment is to evaluate the screenplays we read for three act structure. This morning, I’m reading The Way Way Back, a film I have not seen yet and Despicable Me 2 which I have watched several times.

You can learn so much from reading these screenplays: script format, story structure, character development, dialogue and so much more. Plus, it’s a lot of fun to get a glimpse at the process of a movie beginning with words on a page.

I hope you enjoy this resource as much as I am. Let me know which scripts you choose in the comments. Do you like reading films you’ve seen or films you haven’t seen?

Discovering that the links in this post no longer went where  intended was a good reminder to check your blog every three to six months to make sure posts are still current and relevant.

 

 

 

The Misadventures of Moxie Sharpe Episode Two

The Misadventures of Moxie Sharpe Episode Two

Episode Two: She Only Sees What She Wants To See

When we last joined Moxie Sharpe she was wondering aloud if she had blood on her hand . . .

“How doth it smell? It holds the appearance of the sauce of the Turkey Leg.”

“I am not going to smell it,” said Moxie wrinkling her nose.

“Prithy, how doth it taste?”

“I am not going to taste it.”

“Shall I taste it for thee?”

“No. That’s gross.” Moxie lifted her fingers closer to her nose. It did smell like a sweet barbecue sauce.

Moxie rubbed her hand with her skirt then offered it to her companion. “Okay. Now that I don’t think this lute is a deadly weapon–Hi. I’m Moxie Sharpe.”

He did not take her hand. “Oh, you can call me Nettles as I am known by all in the realm. Simon Nettle is my given name, as was provided in your preparatory materials. I hope you are prepared. The parade piece is rather lively.”

“No worries. I’m a professional.” Moxie went back to tuning the lute.

“Moxie Sharpe is an unusual title. But it seems to be apropos. That A-string is certainly sharp.” He laughed at his joke.

Moxie’s jaw tightened as she held her tongue. She thought the name Nettles very fitting as well.

“My duty to the king extends beyond leader of the Midsummer Minstrels,” he said. “I am also her ladyship’s jeweler. I am the shaper and setter of semi-precious stones. I made the Queen’s crown and necklace. If e’er you want to add some sparkle to that glare of yours, I am at your beck and call. My servants run the booth betwixt the costumes and the hair braiders.”

Moxie ran a hand through her own hedgehog-esque coif while wondering how Nettles thought she could tune and listen to him at the same time.

“Oh, don’t worry. It’s cute. The pixie cut, right? Or is it elfin?”

Moxie’s jaw began to ache. She found herself wanting to slap someone for the second time this god-awful, early morning.

“I’ll leave you to your warm-ups then. Sir Ryan and Lady Megan will meet us at the parade line up in,” he pulled a small watch from his pocket, “twenty minutes. They will undoubtedly be sprinting and out of breath. They have a habit of barely making it, in all things. Don’t forget to take off your watch. Wouldn’t want to frighten the peasants with contraptions from the future.”

“No worries. I don’t wear a watch.”

“Then how wilst thou knowest when to line up for the parade?”

“It’s twenty minutes, dude. I can figure it out.”

“Perhaps I should tarry.”

“I think I’ll be more prepared if you leave.”

“Thus, I take my leave.” Nettles bowed and took his leave.

Moxie figured he was standing directly outside the plywood door, but at least he was no longer talking. She removed her music from the large manila envelope labeled “Midsummer Minstrels Parade Music” in Old English calligraphy. The other envelope, labeled “Midsummer Minstrels Joust Music”, she put on the music stand. As she did so, her fingers ran across something rough in the metal.

She took a closer look at the music stand. Something was scratched into the thick black rectangle (the music stands were probably “borrowed” from the local high school) but only enough to be felt and not seen. She traced her fingers over two letters S and N. She checked the other music stands. None of the others had any marks. This must be Simon’s, she thought. I wonder why the lute player was using it. I guess Simon didn’t want it anymore.

The four selections looked straight forward enough, a lot of A and D, simple repetitive lines. She wasn’t sure which one Nettles had referred to as the lively parade piece. They all looked like dirges to Moxie—not a thirty-second note in the lot. While playing through the liveliest looking bit for the second time, she noticed a very slight incorrect shape to one of the notes. Is this hand written? she thought, now that is obsessive behavior. Oh Nettles, you need to find yourself a ren-friend.

The entrance to the Kingdom of Scandium

Feeling confident the Minstrels wouldn’t be throwing her any musical curve balls, Moxie left for the parade. She opened the door slowly expecting to hit Nettles, but he was nowhere to be seen. The eerie silence of the joust field and lower theater worried her, so she quickened her pace. At the top of the hill she heard the rumbling of parade preparation and relaxed. Nettles waved from the front of the line near the fair entrance. It appeared that the Midsummer Minstrels played directly behind the King and Queen.

Nettles positioned her behind the King and then went back to his conversation with a jester lined up behind them. Moxie stared at the thick textured faux-gold pattern in the long train of the Queen’s gown and pretended not to listen to the heated argument in progress in front of her. Moxie couldn’t help but overhear the angry whispers between the Lord and Lady.

“You can’t keep doing this,” said the Queen. “People don’t respect you or your IOUs in the real world. When they catch up to you, we could all be out on our asses or worse.”

“What the hell do you expect me to do? We’re all in too deep,” said the King.

“You could at least pay closer attention to who you take behind the castle for a little grab-ass. The woods aren’t sound-proof you know.”

“Yeah, I really messed up this time.”

“This time?”

“The show must go on. We’ll talk about this later. No one can hear us once the joust starts. Here we go.”

At that moment people began to stream in the front gate. Suddenly Moxie heard panting. As Nettles predicted, Ryan and Megan barely made it. They didn’t have time to introduce themselves before Nettles said, “One two three, four five six,” and the Midsummer Minstrels started into the “lively” parade music.

Moxie felt incredibly clumsy at first. Playing the lute was bizarre enough, but walking in a long skirt, on uneven ground, while stumbling through new music, was hazardous. She felt she was getting the hang of it when she had played through the melody a couple of times, so she looked up and saw the costume dresser smiling at her. She smiled back.

She heard a scream and turned her head just in time to see Megan falling forward onto the Queen. Megan had stepped on the train of the Queen’s gown causing the Queen to choke and then fall. Moxie bumped into the back of the King. Ryan grabbed her arm in an attempt to stop his own fall and pulled her to the ground. Moxie instinctually held the lute above her head. Luckily, the people behind her were able to stop in time to avoid a catastrophe.

During the commotion, Moxie saw something glimmer through the dust cloud. She thought she saw Megan rush forward and grab the Queen’s necklace and crown and hand them off to Ryan. Nettles had said they were semi-precious stones; they must be worth a lot of money. But when the dust settled, Ryan was helping Megan up from the ground. The Queen stood, dusted herself off and straightened her crown and necklace.

What in the world just happened? Moxie thought.

“One two three, four five six,” said Nettles.

Moxie plucked the strings of the lute and the parade continued its path to the joust.

It seems there’s something sinister happening in the Kingdom of Scandium. Was Moxie seeing things? What were the King and Queen fighting about? What has Pearl gotten Moxie into? Tune in next week for the electrifying continuation of Moxie’s startling, amazing and weird misadventure!

Gator McBumpypants in Dee Dee Makes Three First Draft Thanks To A Thousand Words A Day

Dee Dee the Duck with her new friendsThough I did not write another 1,000 words since I reported yesterday, I did write 570 words to finish up the first draft of my third picture book in the Gator McBumpypants and friends series: Gator McBumpypants in Dee Dee Makes Three. That brings the weekend total to 2,014! By my math, I made it to the goal of 1,000 words a day (though I still have to write 1,000 today, but that’s for tomorrow’s blog). I’m very excited about this book, not only because it’s fun to take pictures of stuffed animals in the wild and tell their stories, but because Dee Dee is the first of my characters that I designed and created myself. Spoiler alert! I plan to make a box turtle next.

For the rest of my 5,000 words this week I will be working on two projects:

One is a middle grade novel that I plan as a series. It’s about a nine year old girl who realizes she can interact with spirits to help them with their unfinished business. However, she doesn’t want anyone, especially her classmates, to know, so she creates a business getting rid of household noises.

The other project is a series of short stories about a lake spirit. The story I’m trying to finish is called “Creation of the Lake Spirit” and is about half done. I hope to finish this week.

As part of the Novel Recommit challenge, I said I would post my word count each day, so I will keep you posted. I have a couple of more instructional yet-to-be-finished blog posts saved in my drafts to dust off for you throughout the week and hopefully some very fun pictures of Gator McBumpypants and his new friend Dee Dee as the week progresses.

Happy Writing!

Tips and Tricks: Creating Revision Goals and Preparing For First Readers.

 Crater Lake July 4th 2015

The hummingbird moth drinking after dark.                                                                             photo by Maria L. Berg

I apologize for my time away. I needed a break and an adventure to fill me up with new energy, so I could return to you with insight.

I can finally see an endpoint to my revisions, at least an endpoint that will allow me to send a draft to my carefully chosen first readers (I chose my first readers for many different reasons. I chose eight people who will give me honest feedback and may see my content from different points of view. I will talk more about first readers in October). Here are the revelations occurring in my writing life that have brought me to this exciting point in the writing of my novel.

Tips:

1. Listen when a good friend asks if you need to be held accountable.

There is nothing better than a fellow writer and good friend wanting to read your book. When my critique group asked how my revision was going and I said I kept writing other things, Sherri stepped up and said, “Do you need me to hold you accountable?”  I am obstinate and rebellious, so having someone else hold me accountable was not an option, but wow did she set a fire under my seat .

As a self-motivator, I interpreted her words as, “you are not doing your work” in a way that I needed. I realized I had to set goals and make deadlines to see my draft become the novel that I want it to be.

2. Make your goals real and tell others.

The first thing I did to become accountable was to choose a date that had meaning to me. I didn’t map out the time I thought it would take and then set a date.That never works for me. Large dates like birthdays, anniversaries of important events, important holidays, are ways that I challenge myself. This time, I have a difficult anniversary (Ten years since evacuation with no return) and I want to turn it into a celebration.  Once I imagined I could achieve my goals by that date, I set personal goals for each day. For the first time ever, I tried to be reasonable and create achievable goals. Believe it or not, I procrastinate and have impressive skills in self-sabotage.

Then I talked to my first readers. I told them the date I chose and asked if they still wanted to be my first readers. This made me accountable, not only to myself, but to eight other people. And now to you.

3. Break your goals into little pieces and attack!

Knowing what I had left to accomplish in a short amount of time, I had to break down the last of my goals into daily work. To do that, I created weekly themes that I could break down into little projects. The first hurdle was typing all of my hand written edits from my last read through and from my critique group into a new draft. The perceived tediousness of the task had been the stop sign that had me wandering into different styles and story ideas. I gave myself two days to only type in edits. However, for every little comma or word choice, I saw larger problems that I either changed or got stuck on.

One of the greatest tips I have to give you is when you get stuck, change your text to red, type a note about what you want but can’t get to or why you’re stuck and move on. Typing up all the editing ended up taking five days instead of two, but I discovered how prepared I was to finish. For every sentence that was confusing, I knew how to change it into sense. For every chapter that was weak, I had a plan.

great reflection on Crater Lake

Reflecting on reflection                                                                                    photo by Maria L. Berg

Which leads us to my new (and newly applied) tricks:

1. Character Development through dialog: A personal breakthrough and a lesson in rereading my own blogs – This was my original name for this post because I felt like I had a major epiphany and wanted to share, but realized I had already posted about my use of dialog to get writing to the page in a previous post Getting words on the page. Dialog as a warm-up is the third tip in that post. My epiphany, however, is a little different. My protagonist is a self-proclaimed hermit who has very little interaction with anyone outside of her house. She has a lifetime of reasons for her hermithood and layers of associations as motivations, but I found it hard to get any of this across to the reader because my character didn’t want to think about those bad experiences. Finally, I had a breakthrough. I had already established that she talked to a friend every day on the phone, but I hadn’t written any of their conversations. I started writing their conversations as part of my morning pages and suddenly my protagonist’s world opened up. I found it awe inspiring how a quick phone conversation could let the reader know twenty years of back-story. My critique group found some of conversation unclear, but I think leaving some parts of the conversation up to interpretation leaves space for the reader (to relate to or not, to imagine something different in the space between).

2. Let yourself go through research- After finishing my edits, I created a separate document for each of the seven section I had left in red ink that need further writing. I noticed that the sections I need to really dive into are the areas I have little to no experience with, or contain behaviors that are outside my purview. I needed to get outside of myself.

Even if your novel isn’t historical fiction or science fiction, finding an avenue for research can inspire. In my case, a textbook on criminology and Inside the Criminal Mind by Stanton E. Samenow, Ph.D. (Samenow is a great last name!) inspired pages of notes. Inside the Criminal Mind also showed me that many of the behaviors I had already written were right on track which felt great! It’s not often a writer manages to find her own positive feedback.

3. Names: A new fun technique for me– One of the most important things I have left to do is come up with names for the tertiary characters. Looking through lists of baby names or name engines online did not inspire me. I enjoyed looking through the most recent local candidates and trying to mix lasts with firsts, and talented friends have told me to look online for another country’s white pages, but these techniques were not what I needed either. Today, I found an unlimited fountain of names in my piles of old records. If you don’t have records, CD liners or movie credits will do just as well. Think of all the people that work behind the scenes to make music and film happen, then think about the multitude of combinations you can make by mixing and matching those first and last names.

For my example, I had a sampling of my old records and my parents old records. I had records from Sweden and France. I had a selection of Pop, Rock, Musicals and Classical. I made three columns in my notebook: Last names, Male character and Female character first names. This way my lists created unique randomized combinations as I wrote them down so when I look at it later, I won’t have to worry about using an actual name.

4. Those pages you don’t want numbered – When I send out my draft, I want to make it very clear to my first readers that I wrote a piece of fiction, so I created a page with the well known statement “All of the characters in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. After typing it into the center of my new page after the title page, I had a major page numbering dilemma. This bugged me. I knew how to not number my cover page in Word, but I hadn’t figured out any extra pages until today. The magic? Section breaks.

How to: Delete your header. Create all the front pages you want: I created a disclaimer, but you might also want a couple quotes and a dedication; like I said this is for my first readers, so I might make a page of my expectations for reading time, editing/commenting expectations and easy directions for making notes inline. Once you know how many pages you do not want topped with a header or page number, make a section break. To do this in Word, leave your cursor at the end of the text that does not want a number, select the page layout tab, click on Page Breaks and scroll down to New Page. That will most likely create a break and a blank page. I recommend clicking on the Home tab and clicking on the paragraph symbol to see the backspaces needed to delete the extra page.

Once you have created a new section, click on the page you want as page one then click on the Insert tab and select Header. Make sure to click (unclick) Link to previous. Once you’ve created the header that you want, click pages and choose your style and placement then select format page numbers and select start at and enter 1. That should do it.

(I had to go back to the beginning of my first section and edit Header and delete it, then recreate the second header in the second section, but that is most likely because I was making changes instead of starting from scratch. Happy news, it worked).

So there you have it. The tips and tricks I am using to finish my revision and prepare for first readers. I hope you found something useful. Happy writing.

A Change of Scenery: Hiking for Writers

Trail Signs in Ravensdale RetreaThis winter has been wonderfully warm and spring-like in my neck of the woods, so I’ve been going on some fun walks. Thanks to a post by harrybipedhiking, a local blogger, I recently discovered Ravensdale Retreat.

This place is an amazing contradiction–A beautiful forest with a little stream that runs through it, packed between a busy road and railroad tracks. When you enter, you expect it to be a very short jaunt, but the trail keeps going and going. Then, at the lovely sign pictured above, splits into two trails which eventually lead to a grassy road to a gravel road to some less-traveled trails beyond.

The sun comes through the moss covered treesThe slanted light coming through the moss-covered trees made me think that trolls, gnomes and fairies had to be hiding everywhere. A frog taunted us, never to be seen. We decided he was a dimension-hopping frog because whenever we thought we were getting close to him, his croak came from a completely different direction. Often along the walk, the traffic noises  disappeared and it was easy to forget we were surrounded by civilization.

This forest definitely made me think of fairy tales and magical creatures. Inspiring for any writer. I will not be surprised if the scenes I captured in the many photographs I took end up in my stories even though I don’t write fantasy. A fern lined path

It’s easy to see how hiking can help a writer describe beautiful scenes, but how else is hiking helpful for writers?

Any form of exercise is great, for getting the blood pumping and oxygenating the brain cells, but I also found some fun articles specific to walking and hiking. Enjoy!

Why Walking Helps Us Think – The New Yorker

Hiking Makes You Smarter – Backpacker Magazine

writers-take-a-hike-if-you-know-whats-good-for-you – blog post

A circle of mushrooms on the end of a felled tree

A mini fairy ring of pink mushrooms